Skip to main content

New research highlights the effectiveness of immune therapies for type 1 diabetes

The research, which was co-funded by JDRF, reveals that drugs that target the immune system offer very effective and rapid improvements in stabilising blood sugar levels, often within just three months.
JDRF logo placeholder for author profile picture
Jo Watts 6 November 2023

T cell immune system

In a research paper published in the Lancet journal, an international team of researchers combined data from 21 clinical trials of immune therapies, or immunotherapies, which revealed the incredible potential of immunotherapy to treat people newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Immune therapies target the immune attack

Clinical trials have demonstrated that immunotherapies can interfere with the destruction of insulin-producing cells, called beta cells. Preserving beta cells allows people developing type 1 diabetes to keep making their own insulin for longer. If people with type 1 can produce even a small amount of insulin, their type 1 may be considerably easier to manage, a phenomenon known as the honeymoon phase.

Global team of researchers

The research group includes leading immunologists from JDRF, Cardiff University, Critical Path Institute, University of Alberta, Colorado University and the pharmaceutical industry including JDRF-funded researcher Professor Colin Dayan. Professor Colin Dayan from Cardiff University said: “This research supports the role of immunotherapy, focusing on preventing the autoimmune destruction of insulin producing cells, rather than simply relying on insulin to treat the resulting insulin deficiency. Potentially screening programs could detect people at high risk of type 1 diabetes, and these treatments could be used even earlier with the ultimate aim of preventing childhood type 1 diabetes.”


Delaying type 1 beyond childhood

Currently, immune therapies can delay the onset of type 1 diabetes and the need for insulin treatment. This delay is crucial to limit the prevalence of type 1 in childhood, where the condition can be more challenging to manage due to the hormones involved in puberty. Giving children their childhood back is an exciting possibility thanks to immunotherapy drugs. Combining immune therapies and fine-tuning the drugs offers hope that we could one day halt the immune attack completely.

Importance of C-peptide

C-peptide (short for connecting peptide) is needed to make insulin. Beta cells release C-peptide with insulin in equal amounts, but insulin is used quickly so it is difficult to measure. Measuring the amount of C-peptide in a blood sample is an accurate measure of how much insulin beta cells are releasing.

This new research established the importance of C-peptide as a biological marker of type 1. This offers an effective tool to measure the success of clinical trials and understand how well people are managing their type 1.

Research to reality

The research heralds a new era of type 1 diabetes treatment. We must now help get these powerful drugs into the hands of people who can benefit from them. Joint first author Dr Kimberly Collins, joint lead researcher from the Critical Path Institute said: “The data and analysis performed in this exciting project have provided the basis for an invaluable clinical trial simulation tool to promote faster and more efficient clinical trials in this space.”

Related news

Read more
Professor Colin Dayan at Cardiff University, working on immunotherapy for type 1 diabetes cure research
18 April 2024

Professor Colin Dayan presented with the 2023 JDRF Rumbough Award 

The award recognises Professor Dayan’s remarkable accomplishments in type 1 diabetes research.

Read more
Two young children sat on the floor hugging each other.
18 April 2024

Genetically unique siblings reveal new treatment target for type 1 diabetes

Two siblings who have unique changes in a key gene have given researchers new insights that could help lead to innovative new treatments in type 1 diabetes.

Read more
Professor Richard Oram in the Research, Innovation, Learning and Development (RILD) building at the University of Exeter.
7 March 2024

New biochip launches that detects genetic risk of type 1 diabetes

A new test by Randox, developed with JDRF-funded researchers at the University of Exeter, is the first in the world to use genetics to quickly identify who is at high risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

Read more
A graphic of a DNA double helix with a piece being removed demonstrating genetic engineering.
Cure research
21 February 2024

Primate with type 1 diabetes becomes insulin-independent after receiving gene-edited cells without immunosuppression

A transplant of stem cells grown into pancreatic islets has allowed a primate with type 1 to make its own insulin again.

Connect with us on social